Electrolytes = minerals in your body that have an electric charge. Magnesium, sodium, calcium, potassium.
Up to the point when I first became a carnivore, I had zero interest in electrolytes. I knew what they were, and knew they were in Gatorade and other sports drinks, but I was unaware of what their exact function was. That was until I was bombarded with a constant barrage of posts about the necessity of electrolyte supplementation. Every keto / zero carb forum on the internet was jam-packed with anecdotes from folks reminding us that we NEED electrolytes during our “adaptation phase” to keto or carnivore.
I’ve seen so much advertising, at this point it seems like a blatant gimmick. I Google searched “electrolytes” to research a bit for this article and this was the first thing I saw on my screen:
When I first became a keto guy I had a few coworkers who would try to sell me these keto powders that were supposedly filled with ketones and electrolytes. I was given one as a sample, and later when I got home I did some digging on the company and found out they were products from a multi-level marketing scam. Yikes. As if I didn’t need another reason to not buy this stuff, but now I feel like I’m being harassed by pyramid-schemers! I was coming from this school of thought: Humans have been around for 250,000 years, and we survived just about that length of time without taking electrolyte supplements. Do the Inuit people and other indigenous, carnivore tribes put in Amazon orders for their ketorade? I couldn’t help but be skeptical.
I never thought that electrolytes were totally useless, I was just ignorant. As it says in the above image, electrolytes are important because they help balance the amount of water in your body. I had an inkling that it had something to do with this, as I used to eat very high levels of sodium. I noticed that every time I heavily salted my food throughout the day I looked like a bloated, chubby lard-ass the next morning (my experimentation with sodium levels will be an entire article sometime).
My initial adaptation phase when I began keto last year went something like this. Lots of energy in the morning, but if I had to do any physical labor that day, I was VERY fatigued by the afternoon. It wasn’t a physical tiredness sensation, but more like a “my muscles hurt like a bitch” sensation. Unfortunately for me, not doing any physical labor wasn’t really an option. My job has me on my feet all day, walking at least 15 miles, pushing, pulling, lifting, yadda yadda yadda. For a couple of weeks, I’d get home from work, try to climb up a flight of stairs, and feel like I blew my muscles out in the gym all day.
The /r/keto subreddit was a big timesuck for me during this time, and one day I took notice to a particular electrolyte-praising post. This wasn’t the post I saw, but it had the exact same message:
My supper every night was unsalted chicken breast, unsalted broccoli, both cooked in unsalted butter. Fasting every day with one meal a day, too! Upon further research, I had discovered there was such thing as SODIUM DEFICIENCY! Hyponatremia was added to my vocabulary that fateful day. I had a few of the symptoms that Dr. Web MD informed me of. The fatigue, irritability, and muscle spasms were certainly there. I immediately went to the store, got a sodium supplement, and started popping pills like a depressed 90’s rock star.
I also had the DARKEST circles under my eyes. I had noticed them a couple of weeks prior to my revelation. After I resumed heavily salting my food and started taking the supplement, the circles disappeared. Something tells me the two must be related. I actually found a picture of myself during that phase and I’d love to share it with you.
After popping these sodium pills, I came back to life. No more fatigue during the day, no more muscle cramps. I ended up doing more research on electrolytes because of the drastic change in my day-to-day condition. Potassium, that thing in bananas? I can’t eat that! Take magnesium, by PILL?!? Heresy! But I looked up the symptoms of low potassium and low magnesium, and would ya just look at that! I had all of them.
Symptoms of low magnesium include: muscle twitches, cramps, fatigue, and muscle weakness.
Symptoms of low potassium include: weakness, fatigue, muscle aches, stiffness, mood changes.
Back to the store! A bottle of magnesium, a bottle of potassium, and just like that I was home. I bought these:
I looked a bit closer. 99 milligrams per tablet of potassium? That’s like less than half the dosage of the magnesium tablet!
3% of my DAILY value of potassium?!?!?! You’re telling me I need to take 34 of these tablets each day to get my recommended daily amount?
It goes without saying that I ran through that bottle in an insanely short amount of time. This also coincided around the time I had made the notorious jump from keto to carnivore. I decided to not buy another bottle of potassium. I was gonna see if there were any noticeable effects, and I didn’t want to waste the money for a negligible amount of potassium.
My diet was largely the same then as it is now. Beef, pork, chicken, eggs. Sometimes salted, sometimes not. Sometimes when I treat myself I’ll sneak in a bit of cheese. After eliminating vegetables and fruits entirely, I didn’t notice any differences in the way I felt when I stopped taking potassium. I got an idea.
What will happen if I stop taking magnesium? Turns out, there was hardly any difference after I stopped taking that too. I was in a hard place. Do I actually need these or not? I decided to do some math. Here are the nutrition facts for one 3 oz. serving of 85/15 ground beef:
First of all, three MEASLY ounces for one serving!?!? Us carnivores know that a real serving of ground beef is one pound. I was usually eating two full pounds of ground beef for my supper every night. 16 ounces in a pound meant I was eating 32 ounces of beef, which in turn meant that I was eating 10.67 SERVINGS of ground beef per day!
10.67 servings x 7% daily value of potassium = 74.67% of my daily potassium just from ground beef!
10.67 servings x 4% daily value of magnesium = 42.67% of my daily magnesium!
Why would I ever buy supplements again? I was getting most of my electrolyte supplementation, just from eating real food! I cut out the daily calories I got from vegetables and fruit, replaced it with salted beef, and look at that! Also, I’m getting most of my daily electrolytes from ONE meal!
Your experience may be different, but I have found that taking additional electrolytes is a lot less needed when my diet consists of large amounts of nutritious, red meat. No more tiredness, no more fatigue, no more muscle cramps. I still take the magnesium from time to time, but only because I still have a lot left in the bottle. I will often go weeks without taking any and still, unsurprisingly, I’ll feel no difference on a day-by-day basis.
Let me know your electrolyte supplementation experience in the comments below! It’s interesting how everyone is affected differently.
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